What Is a Checkerboard Cake?

Mary Ellen Popolo

When a checkerboard cake is cut open, it reveals a cake like no other. If baked and assembled correctly, the cake will have an alternating pattern of colors that resembles a checkerboard, hence its name. The cakes can be made with a specialized kit, but can also be made with ordinary baking pans. Correct assembly is key to a successful checkerboard cake. Any two colors can be used for the batter, and the cake can be frosted in a solid color or to duplicate the pattern and colors of the cake itself.

Chocolate is traditionally used in half of the batter for a checkerboard cake.
Chocolate is traditionally used in half of the batter for a checkerboard cake.

Making a checkerboard cake is easy when a special checkerboard pan kit is used. These pans can be purchased in stores that sell specialty baking tools as well as online. Generally, the kit includes three sets of cake pans with dividers that snap into place in the pan to keep the batters from mixing together. Most checkerboard cake kits come with instructions for baking and assembling the cake, and recipes for checkerboard cakes may also be included. There are recipes and instruction guides available elsewhere, but it is best to follow the guidelines provided by the manufacturer for their specific cake pan set.

Bakers can use any two colors of batter to make the layers in a checkerboard cake.
Bakers can use any two colors of batter to make the layers in a checkerboard cake.

A checkerboard cake can also be made without the set. Carefully piping the batter into three separate cake pans to form opposing rings of color will create the same alternating pattern of colored squares. Some bakers may prefer the kit, while others may find doing it on their own is just as easy.

A traditional checkerboard cake is made with white and chocolate batter to give it the most authentic white and black checkerboard design. It is possible, however, to substitute strawberry or lemon batter for the chocolate batter. Another idea is to use all white batter, coloring each half with contrasting colors, such as purple, red, blue, or green.

The two separate batters must be poured into the cake pans in a precise order. Two sets of pans are set up identically, with the lighter colored batter in the outside and the innermost ring of the pan and the darker batter in the middle ring. The other pan set is set up with the darker batter in the outside and innermost ring and the lighter batter in the middle ring.

When the cake is finished baking, it must be assembled correctly in order to achieve the checkerboard pattern. The two matching cakes should be used as the bottom and top layer with the different cake as the middle layer. Dark frosting matching the darker cake batter should be used to lightly frost between the cake layers as it is put together. Once the cake is assembled, it can then be completely frosted.

There are two ways of frosting a checkerboard cake. One way is to frost it entirely with one color frosting, usually one of the shades of the inside of the cake. The other choice for frosting is to replicate the checkerboard pattern on the outside of the cake.

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